soundchecking & Monitoring
THINGS TO KNOW IN PREPARATION FOR YOUR FIRST SHOW OR TOUR
The aim of these lessons is to highlight the aspects of drumming that relate to playing a show and touring. Whether you’re about to play your first show in a club or you are preparing for your first tour, I hope that through sharing my own experiences of trial and error, I can provide insight to the newcomers among us as to what to expect, as well as some useful tips for future reference to those that have been around the block.
Until you reach the big stage with a full production crew and staff, playing shows at the grassroots level will require musicians to be as self-sufficient as possible, as you will have to be able to look after and provide for yourself. You will need to think about what you need to bring as well as how you could be best prepared for all the processes, such as soundcheck, equipment sharing and teamwork. You’ll quickly realise that successful gigging and touring requires a good deal of professionalism and organisation. So, what are all these things that we need to factor in when preparing for our next show or tour? Let’s get right down to business.
Once you arrive at the venue and load in all of your gear, you would usually expect to wait for your soundcheck onstage at a time organised in advance of the show. You will set up your gear, have microphones placed as appropriate and check that ‘your world’ is all set to your liking. From then on, it’s really important to be aware of the purpose you are serving when soundchecking. This process allows musicians onstage to check their levels and make sure that their gear is working, but also for the FOH engineer to check the levels and sonic characteristic of your show ‘out front’. For us drummers, soundcheck usually begins from the ‘bottom up’, with the bass drum and then the snare, hi-hat, toms and cymbals as a typical order. Work with your sound engineer as he or she will call the part of the kit to check one at a time before you lay down a groove to draw every component together. As you play each part of your kit, make sure that you adhere to the following points: check the drums are at ‘gig volume’; go through all the techniques you would use in the show (rimshots, cross-stick); when playing a groove, keep it simple and spacious so each drum could be differentiated and play fills that take you around all the drums.
The soundcheck gives you the opportunity to check the Foldback level in your monitors. Whilst floor monitors or ‘wedges’ have become a familiar item onstage, you will see more people replacing them with in-ear systems. The benefits of these systems include more effective protection of hearing, enhanced foldback of sound, ease of running a click while clearly hearing the others.
It’s easy to presume that in-ear monitoring would come at high expense but you would be very surprised. Brands like Shure have good ‘generic’ isolation earphones for under £100 that are now considered to be industry standard. All you need is a small mixing desk or a headphone monitor device to receive the monitor feed (usually an XLR cable) and you’re literally good to go. You could go all in under £200.
I believe in being self-sufficient, getting the job done efficiently and keeping set-up time to a minimum. It’s all achievable through forward thinking, good organisation and care. Experience plays a big part too, but for those of us that are yet to build that, I hope this article helps in steering you clear of some of the problems I’ve faced over the years. The Academy of Contemporary Music( ACM) is a leading music industry education provider that has helped prepare musicians, producers, songwriter sand entrepreneurs for careers in the music industry for over 20 years with state-of-the-art facilities, world-class faculty and extensive industry connections, ACM offers music programmes that develop students to their maximum potential and instantlyimmersestheminthemusicindustry.www.acm.ac.uk.
Understanding the mechanics of gigging and touring will help shows run more smoothly